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elvira kohn

Each one of us had his duties and knew what he/she was supposed to do. I knew exactly what took place when and where, in terms of meetings, conferences, events, campaigns, and I followed the schedule. I was the only female photo-reporter within ZAVNOH. There were two other male photo-reporters, but sometimes there were called in for other duties, so there were times when I was the only photo-reporter for ZAVNOH.

After the supreme headquarters formed their own public-relations department, I started to work for them, and I stayed there until the war was over.

For a while we stayed in Topusko and were about to start the preparations for celebrating 8th March [International Women's Day]. However, we received the order to move to Zadar. Zadar was terribly bombed, but liberated, and so we were given orders to reach Zadar.

After we packed our belongings, we set out on our journey from Topusko to Zadar. In front of us was a Russian military mission, the English and the Americans, and each had flags on their trucks. And, again, the day was sunny and clear, the Germans saw the truck convoy and started bombing. When we were forming our convoy, each truck had a number; each department received a number and had to load the truck with the corresponding number.
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Throughout the whole time of our imprisonment in the camp, I had my camera with me. I managed to hide it when we arrived in the camp even though we had to submit all of our belongings to a detailed search. But, apart from the initial search, I had to continue to hide the camera because the Italians searched our barracks almost every day.

We, the inmates, figured out the system although it was very risky. We informed each other when and where the search began so if the search began in barrack number 1 that meant that barrack number 1 was clear.

One of the informers ran to let the others know, who then let me know, and then I sent the camera through others to barrack number 1 that had already been checked. So my camera was always in a different place and the Italians never found it, thanks to good communications and good relations among the inmates.

I didn't take any photos during our imprisonment because that would have been too dangerous. I wasn't, of course, allowed to do it and, had they caught me, I could have been in great trouble so I never even tried.
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I didn't feel much anti-Semitism in Dubrovnik before the war. Perhaps right before the war started, anti-Semitism was felt more individually than collectively. My boss, Miho Ercegovic, had one partner named Gesel. This Mr. Gesel told my boss that he must fire whoever was Jewish. He knew I was Jewish.

So my boss, who was very inclined to me, had to fire me but he did so only officially so that he wouldn't get into trouble. He still let me work 'unofficially' for him and I continued to do my job and take photos and that way I could earn my living. This was just when the NDH was proclaimed a state and the Ustashas came to power.

We were forced to wear a badge since the NDH was proclaimed in 1942. There were other discriminating laws implemented against Jews: in addition to wearing the badge, we were forbidden to work in state and public services, and we were deprived of the freedom of passage. We were allowed to go to the beach or to the market only until a certain time of the day; a curfew was imposed on us.

In Dubrovnik, the state power was in the hands of the Croats, i.e. of the Ustashas, and the military power was in the hands of the Italians. It was our luck that the Italians were in power there. The Germans, in collaboration with the Ustashas, tried to take us to their concentration camps, but the Italians made clear to them that they were in power in Dubrovnik and that it was Italian right to do what they wanted to do with us. And because the military power was greater than the state power, we were, in a way, put under the protection of the Italians.

The Jewish community informed all the Jews living in Dubrovnik, the Jews who by accident happened to be there, and the Jews who came to Dubrovnik to run away or hide, that on a certain day in November 1942 we would be taken away and that we could take with us what we thought was necessary. I was with my mother. We were taken aboard a large Italian passenger ship and many people of Dubrovnik came to see us off.

Among them was my boss Miho Ercegovic. When I saw him, I approached him and returned his camera. And he said, 'No, you keep it, and whatever happens will be captured on film.
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Jankiel Kulawiec

I never experienced any nastiness from Poles. My colleagues at work laughed at the mass meeting. They knew I was Jewish, but I never had any problems.
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Mico Alvo

In the business, Daniel was doing the accounting. He had a very good relationship with my father and their brother Joseph. We didn't have any problems. But he only received part of the earnings. They didn't have shares. They used to live on Vassilissis Olgas Street, in the 25th of March area, on the corner of Vassilissis Olgas and Marasli Street. The house was theirs. They bought it after it was built.
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When the colonels came [95] there was one of them that must have been a Jew who had left the army by then and was in the same class with Papadopoulos. He was from Yiannena [city in the region of Epirus, 370 km west of Thessaloniki] or Chalkida, I don't remember exactly which one.

The colonels, when they were about to get involved in the Community - because they put their hands into everything - asked him,: 'Who do you think should we put in charge there in order to have a good management?' He gave them a few names, mine was among them. Suddenly I get a notice saying that I am assigned to be a member of this committee for the Community. That's when I started getting involved with public affairs, and I have been since then and up until today.

At the beginning I was a member of the Landed Property Committee, together with three or four others, all of them business people. We did quite a good management not only with the Community's landed property, but we also looked for the landed property that was not yet in our possession, which we owned but which hadn't been regained yet.

We had two lawyers who were involved solely with these issues. We managed to find quite a few. Things were quite confusing but we managed to clear them up. I stayed there from 1970 to 1972.

When the colonels left and we had elections, the electoral body chose 20 members for the general assembly of the Community. Elections take place every four years. At some point after the communal general assembly, I was assigned a post as advisor of the Community Council which consisted of five people. I was the cashier. Later, after four years, I was elected president of the General Assembly.

Around 1990 I became a member of the Landed Property Committee. I served as its president for eight years. I wasn't working anymore so I had the possibility of going around every day, looking into the problems, the issues of the day, and to try to solve them if possible.

During these eight years, and I am not trying to boast, I managed to triple the earnings. First of all because things were being handled legally. Also, because the law had changed and the moratorium for rents had been abolished. I managed because I applied my system, always handling things in a gentle way, and without ever getting into a fight with any of the tenants. Even so the earnings tripled.

In the end, when I resigned they didn't want to let me go. I didn't agree with the spirit anymore. There were now many young people in the Council. I like to discuss things with people before making decisions. They had a different attitude. And so I took my hat and left.

It is now more than ten years that I've been at the Covo Foundation. I am also at the Nissim Foundation. I think we are assigned in these committees for life. They would replace us in case one retires or dies and then the Community suggests somebody else.
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Rafael Genis

Nevertheless, my colleagues always had a very good attitude towards me. I had excellent organizational skills and they valued me. I never noticed anti-Semitisms in all those years, neither at work nor beyond it. In 1953 when Stalin died, I was only happy for that, I knew what he was worth since I had been put in the cart with the peoples' enemies [15] during the war. I understood how much trouble that person had brought.
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At that time all the leading positions required either Communist Party or Komsomol [13] membership. I couldn't join the Komsomol in the army as my relatives were living in the USA. When I became an engineer of the commodity base, one of the inspectors at the Ispolkom said that my title envisaged that I should be a member of the Communist Party. I applied for party membership.
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My boss, a Jew called Germanis wasn't a decent man and misappropriated almost all the sausage. I didn't want to work with him and be liable for larceny. I left him and soon I became the director of an industrial enterprise. It didn't exist for a long time. Then I was in charge of a logistics department in a car fleet. I changed those jobs within a year and in 1948 I started working in the road department of the Ispolkom as an engineer of asphalting the road Telsiai-Plunge.
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Now I had some shelter, but I had to look for a job. The smith had no job for me. I went from house to house in the village, went to the rural administration, to the canteen. Finally I was hired by the bakery. I was supposed to bake bread, cut it in pieces, dry and place it in paper bags. Those rusks were sent to the front. I had some experience as I had worked in Mom's bakery. I started working and I was given bread. I even brought some flour to the smith and his daughter. I also brought them some defective bread every day. I lived and worked here until 8th March 1942.
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My birthday was on 21st June 1941. It was Saturday and my pals from the military unit wanted me to celebrate it with them, so I didn't go home. My pals and the head of the cart fleet Shalin celebrated with me. We drank a bottle of vodka and went dancing to the club. We stayed there until midnight. I went home and fell asleep straight away. At 6am I was awoken by Shalin: 'Get up, the war has started!' I should say that I wasn't surprised. We understood in the military unit that the war was inevitable. There was talk about it. We said that we wouldn't give up a single piece of our land. Shalin sent me over to the garage and ordered us to dismantle the cars for the Fascists not to take them. There were a lot of them and it took us a long time. We dug a huge pit and covered the cars with timber waste as the saw mill was nearby. By that time the town, where the military unit was located, was almost vacated. Some people ran away, others were hiding.
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At that time the military unit, located 23 kilometers away from Rietavas, had a vacant position of a mechanic. I went there and was hired right away. My salary was 450 litas per month. I rented a room not far from the military unit. I went home to Rietavas only over the weekend. I gave almost all my salary to Mother. Here I started studying Russian and soon I could speak with my pals fairly fluently. I was a mature and materially independent young guy. I even had a Lithuanian girlfriend, whom I indented to marry in the future.
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At times I helped my master with anti-religious propaganda. I think he was an underground Communist or a Communists sympathizer. At times he gave me flyers to disseminate. There were times when we tied red fabric to stones and flung them at electric wires, there was a blackout and the fabric was torn into pieces. The next morning the whole town was strewn with small red flags. I did it unquestioningly just satisfying my master's request and fortunately I wasn't caught, otherwise I would have been arrested like many other underground Communists.
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I worked with Shilenis for three years. I became a good locksmith and I was also particularly good with engines. There were cases when customers didn't go to Shilenis, but directly to me. The master bore no grudge and valued me as a worker. Along with him we got a task to fix a dynamo machine which was used at the power station and we coped with that. I made money and felt confident. There were both Jews and Lithuanians in my company. We went to the park, to each other's place, to the cinema - a small wooden building, to the dancing party which we were looking forward to every Sunday. There was a football field on the square and we often played football.
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Krystyna Budnicka

wanted to get a job somewhere where I would be given lodgings. I applied to work in the militia-run emergency children's care unit but was turned down. I was also rejected by the Korczak Memorial Children's Home. Eventually I found a job in a children's sanatorium in Otwock, and I found a place to live in an attic an hour and a half's journey away - I was a squatter. I didn't get a flat of my own until 1967. There were a few people from Jewish families at the school in Otwock. The personnel officer was a Jew. Perhaps that's why I got the job. We got on well, but we didn't talk about the past. I became friendly with one of the teachers, and through her I met a family who I did talk to. That teacher and her family emigrated to Israel later.
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